Summary: This sermon examines the request of the Pharisees and how they try to prevent the Resurrection on the Sabbath.
April 5, 2006 Troubling Times of the Passion
The Next Day
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
As I was perusing the TV once I saw a few minutes of a rather sick and twisted movie that is called “Wishmaster.” In it, a demon of a genie appears to people and gives them wishes; the only problem is that he answers their wishes in a way that is mean and cruel. One guy asked to be rich, so the demon had his father killed in a plane crash so the man would get his inheritance. Inevitably, these people found out that they needed to be more specific and careful with their requests - because this demon didn’t really have the best interest of the people in mind. Bill Cosby did a large portion of a comedy routine on the fact that he only asked God for a healthy baby - not realizing that God had a sense of humor - giving him a healthy baby who ended up giving Bill a pain in the neck.
The wonderful thing that we know about God - as Christians who have faith in His mercy and grace - is that God doesn’t give us things that He knows will be bad for us. He teaches us to pray, “thy will be done.” This little phrase reminds us that God knows much better than us. It teaches us that we can be bold in our prayers, and not worry that God will somehow give us something that will be bad for us spiritually just because we asked for it.
Nonetheless, our prayer life - the WAY that we pray and WHAT we pray for - these things reflect what we really believe and value in life. Even though God won’t give us what is bad for us - that doesn’t mean we should care about what we pray for. James 4:3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. We want to reflect the right priorities and the right attitude in what we pray and how we pray.
I would venture to guess that one of the most prominent prayers that goes up to God is the prayer for God to “prove it” it in one way or another. When a mom’s child is on the surgery table, the prayer goes up to God - “prove to me that you really are God! Heal my son!” When a young man is desperate to have a sexual relationship with his beautiful classmate he prays, “Lord, please let me have her! Do this and I will believe in you the rest of my life!” When an older person nears the time of death, he prays, “Lord, take away my pain! End it now! Prove yourself!” What does God make of these prayers for Him to prove it? It depends on two different ways that prayer can be prayed -
1. When he gives you a promise - telling you He is going to do something - you can demand that God prove Himself. When Daniel learned from reading the Scriptures that God had ordained 70 years of captivity in Babylon, he realized that the time was up. So he prayed,
Daniel 9:16-19 O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us. “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
Notice how in this prayer - Daniel - still in humility - gently asks God to prove Himself - to hold good to His Name and His promise. This is good. When God promises us something - He wants us to demand Him of it in our prayers - that’s what faith is all about.